“I’m still breathing. What more can I ask for?” Columbia teen graduates, four months after severe crash.

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Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 8:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -The word “miracle” can be overused. But there are not many other ways to describe the journey of 18-year-old Jessica Kolp.

A few months ago, her young life was at a critical crossroads, but now, seemingly with divine help, she is moving forward and reaching milestones. Kolp, 18, graduated with her Ben Lippen school classmates in a ceremony at Shandon Baptist Church May 27th in Columbia.

The ceremony was a day past 4 months after Kolp suffered severe injuries in a car crash at the intersection of Elmwood and Main in Columbia. Authorities say 36-year-old Antonio Henderson was driving a stolen vehicle when he ran a red light and slammed into Jessica’s car injuring Jessica severely.

Henderson was charged with two counts of felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury. Jessica’s injuries were so dire, her chances of survival… were slim.

“It was basically, she was… fighting for her life… we were not sure if she was going to make it or not,” said Jessica’s mother, Cheryl.

Jessica suffered a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury, two broken legs and other injuries. Doctors prepared Cheryl for the worst, telling her that Jessica, a star athlete, may never walk again.

Jessica’s classmates at Ben Lippen School in Columbia, along with the community, gathered & prayed outside Prisma Health Richland Hospital, where Jessica would undergo treatment under the care of dedicated medical professionals.

A GoFundMe page raised over $50,000 dollars in support, and prayers and well wishes poured in on social media. Fast forward to four months after the accident, when a smiling Jessica Kolp walked into Shandon Baptist Church with her family and friends, wearing cap and gown for graduation.

“I am definitely a lot further along than we were all expecting that’s for sure.” She described emerging from a coma and having to come to grips with the hard realities of the trauma she endured. “I definitely didn’t think me and my mom … both of us did not think how severe a TBI- or traumatic brain injury would be.”

Jessica’s mother Cheryl was a driving force in her daughter’s recovery, urging her daughter to fight. When asked how she was able to get past some of the early difficulties and frustrations of recovery, Jessica credits her mom for her steadfast love and support.

Cheryl brushes off the praise, simply saying “it’s what any mother would do.” Tests measured Jessica’s progress, and at times the therapy was daunting. “I was scared out of my mind,” Jessica said. “I was like gosh- this is gonna tell me- I’m not gonna tell me- I can’t go back to school.”

But she did return and was able to fulfill the requirements for graduation. And those prayers just kept coming.

“People from everywhere sent us love and letters… and everybody was praying for us. Churches were praying for us. So many people came up to me and my mom saying my small group is praying for you.”

When asked how she would respond to those who ask whether situations like hers can work together for good, Jessica said her favorite verse is Romans 5:8. “Basically, no matter what we do, God died for us. No matter how many times we sin, God still loves us.”

Now even though obstacles remain, Jessica’s journey is proof: sometimes just when it seems that hope is lost, heaven intervenes. “You’re here. You’re alive. Your brain is not dead. Nothing inside of me, nothing will forever be broken. Everything is healing. My lungs are healing. The bones are healing. Everything is healing. My brain is healing. "

Now, she is a high school graduate walking into a bright future. “I woke up this morning- I’m breathing, what more can I ask for?”

Jessica says she hopes to inspire people with similar circumstances in her career. She is headed to Charleston Southern University in the fall.

“I’m ready to move to Charleston for the school year. But I’m excited to be living in Charleston, working in Charleston. Excited to do missions down there and join FCA (the Fellowship of Christian Athletes). “I’m ready for the next step.

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